The Jones family have just moved in to a new neighbourhood, and soon the attractive family members whose high-end consumer lifestyles make them objects of envy are firmly rooted in their new community and having a significant impact on the retail choices of their peers. But despite the picture-perfect lifestyle, below the surface more is going on with the Joneses than you might imagine.
Because, in truth, the family doesn't exist. Instead, the group consists of a team of attractive and charismatic salespeople led by 'mom' Kate (Demi Moore) whose task it is to create sales through suggestion/becoming objects of envy. 'Dad' Steve (David Duchovny) is the new recruit to the company and team... and something of a fly in the ointment. Firstly, because he is genuinely attracted to Kate; secondly because of his newbie status.
Although this film was promoted as a comedy, it really isn't all that comedic. This isn't just because of the multitude of serious messages it incorporates. Encoding the dangers of consumerism and the cynical levels advertisers are capable of going to to attract potential buyers would have been sufficiently powerful a message, coupled with the strain living the pretence places on the real people. Then there were so many other things going on - neighbour Glenne Headley's desperate bids to become a successful cosmetics-saleswoman, and husband Gary Cole's misery; the real state of affairs in regard to 'the children'; Lauren Hutton's sinister 'Big Boss'. There simply isn't time in a roughly 90 minute span to resolve many/any of these satisfactorily. Indeed, the ending feels quite rushed and superficial.
To some extent, thanks to its contemporary setting, this film was always going to be flawed. The present-day setting undermines the message of the film, as you can hardly fly the flag for a credible anti-consumerist message when the studio behind your production has sold product placement. Although many of the items featured were invented/brands not shown, several items were CLEARLY being marketed to the viewing public as well as the Joneses' neighbours, with prominent brand logos e.g. Audi cars and Krups coffee machines. The result is somewhat hypocritical.
Product placement aside, what a pity that the writer/director of this film didn't reign back on the multiple layers of drama a little bit. Too much going on, and not all of it by any means credible. Which is a shame, because the idea of a team of people working as living advertising and struggling to maintain their picture-perfect cover is a genuinely interesting one. I really enjoyed parts of a film that turned out to be surprisingly thought-provoking (a la 'Pleasantville') but was left frustrated by the patchy conclusion.